Today’s Flaneuring post is by Amanda, taking us through Tanzania.
A New Kind of Normal
The majestic Mount Kilimanjaro looks over me, appearing so giant and crisp in the early morning it looks like a cardboard cut-out God plopped near this small, dusty town. As I meander through the market watching carefully where I place each step on the uneven terrain, I barely notice the layer of dirt that covers my feet. I pick through heaps of shoes and clothes as the owner of the stall sits atop her loot, having a casual conversation with me in Swahili. Driving down the road it’s nearly second nature to swerve for potholes, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, busses goats and cows. Driving three cars wide on a two lane road is not uncommon, nor is stopping along my route to buy bananas for six cents each from a Mama that’s carrying them on her head. My three year old son asks anxiously, “Can I pay the worker?!” when we pull into the petrol station. He hands the money through his open window and says, “Naomba reciti tafadhali.” And I think to myself, “I never thought this would be my ‘normal’.”
Nearly two years ago we followed God’s prompting and moved our family of three from our cozy two-story home in Charlotte, North Carolina to a concrete-floored ranch home Moshi, Tanzania. No longer do we flip the TV on and watch the news or catch a show that we’ve DVRed in the evenings. We don’t have a thermostat to keep our house at a consistent, comfortable temperature. We don’t microwave our leftovers, and we don’t wash our dishes with hot water.
Our new normal is dirt-covered feet all. The. Time. It’s smiling Tanzanian faces, greetings that often last longer than the actual conversation, and chai (that’s tea) offered to us everywhere we go. Our new normal is our three year old being in a preschool with 22 other students, and being the only American among children from five different countries. It’s eating banana stew, pilau, chapati and dengu for lunch – oh and rice. Lots and lots of rice. Normal is hearing a huge THUD in the middle of the night, and knowing it was just a coconut falling off our tree. It’s open windows, dusty floors, always barefoot, mosquito nets and simple living.
This beautiful country is home for us now. Everywhere we go people smile and greet us – even strangers. The Tanzanians are so extremely kind and hospitable, it’s hard not to fall in love with this place. We don’t have a TV, we only have hot water in the shower, and when the power goes off we are rarely surprised. We wash our feet every day at least once, we filter our water before we drink it, and we pasteurize our milk (which comes straight from the neighbor’s cow). We splurge on items like seedless grapes or strawberries when they occasionally appear in the store – paying $5 or more for one small pack – a special treat for sure. We’re used to never having a bag of crisps (potato chips) taste exactly the same, because they’re all made and packaged by hand- and oh so tasty! We wash and re-use our Ziplock bags – precious items brought from the states and unattainable here. We dry our clothes on a rack in our living room or on the line in the yard.
We are surrounded by a great community of ex-pats and nationals and have close friends from a half-dozen different countries. We barely blink an eye when we hear the mosque calling out prayers over the (very) loud speaker several times a day. When our son wants to make a new friend he often asks, “What language do you speak?” When the cacophony of guard dogs and street dogs gets going each night, we’re annoyed, but it’s still normal.
When a stranger hears our son speaking Swahili, and tells his friend that one day the “mzungu” (white person) will speak Swahili as well as an “mbongo” (African)…
When I get lost in a worship song in a village church, singing in Swahili and raising my hands toward the tin roof…
When I look to the sky as the sun dips behind the trees, after bringing the laundry in from the clothes line, and I see that majestic mountain looking over me…
I’m reminded of what home really is: being right in the middle of God’s plan for our lives.
And it makes it even more clear to me, this is our normal.
Amanda is a wife, a mother, a photog, a teacher, a friend, a mentor, granola-liking, Trader Joe’s missing, outdoor loving, camping-in-a-tent, beach bumming, small group leading, hurting for Africa, 30-something. I’m transplanted from Charlotte, NC living in Moshi, Tanzania bringing a little Jesus-love to Africa getting my feet dirty and wearing skirts even though I don’t love to… And while those things don’t define me, they do describe me a bit – what does define me is my never ending, sometimes lacking, pursuit of the Creator of Life. That’s right, above all else, I’m a Jesus-following, child of God. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.